TCU organization finds creative ways to raise awareness about dementia

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Purple and blue pinwheels were displayed outside Bass Hall on Sept. 21 in recognition of World Alzheimer’s Day. (Photo courtesy of Caroline Huttinger)

By Sarah Walter, Staff Writer

Students for a Dementia Friendly TCU (SFADFT) raises awareness and aims to increase TCU students’ and faculties’ knowledge about dementia, especially its impact on the individual, family and community.

President Caroline Huttinger said it’s also an outlet for members to share their experiences with dementia.

“I really enjoy getting to meet all our members and hearing their stories,” Huttinger said. “They normally have some sort of connection to dementia or taking care of someone with dementia, so it’s nice to be able to connect to them that way.”

In September, students walking past Bass Hall may have seen blue and purple pinwheels spinning in the wind. This display was the work of SFADFT in honor of World Alzheimer’s Day on Wednesday Sept. 21.

Students tabled ahead of the day on Monday and Tuesday, encouraging passersby to write the names of individuals living with dementia and their caregivers on pinwheels.

Club members tabled outside the library for two days prior to World Alzheimer’s Day. (Photo courtesy of Students for a Dementia Friendly TCU)

SFADFT members planned the display with the hope of piquing students’ interest and inspiring them to learn more about dementia.

“It’s just starting that conversation that’s so important,” said Mackenzie Meyer, a sophomore nursing major and SFADFT member. “It’s just something a lot of people don’t know about, so if even one person stops or looks or reads the poster and gets a better understanding, then I think it’s worth it.”

The U.S. Population Reference Bureau estimates there are seven million American adults with dementia. However, despite its prevalence, assistant professor of nursing Michelle Kimzey said few people understand the disease.

“Dementia is more of an umbrella term,” said Kimzey, who serves as SFADFT’s campus advisor. “Alzheimer’s or vascular, those are types of dementia, but dementia can be somebody who is confused or somebody who may have short-term memory loss or somebody who can no longer do executive functioning or somebody whose personality is drastically changed.”

The club was founded in 2018 after a group of nursing students approached Kimzey with the idea for a dementia awareness club.

“It’s through the excitement from the students that it has grown immensely,” Kimzey said. “For me to go out and start a club trying to pull interest would not be nearly as enjoyable. Because they got excited, I’m on board.”

The organization kept busy last semester despite COVID-19 restrictions that limited in-person service opportunities.

Vice President Lizzie Fleming drops off Valentine’s Day cards for dementia caregivers. (Photo courtesy of Students for a Dementia Friendly TCU)

In February, members wrote Valentine’s Day cards for individuals working at dementia care facilities.

The club also partners with Dementia Friendly Fort Worth to set up volunteer opportunities. One of these opportunities is weekly online bingo games with individuals with dementia.

In April, SFADFT presented its first Outstanding Caregiver Awards for several dementia caregivers who were nominated by members of the TCU community. The organization sold cookies to raise money for the award recipients.

The organization sold Crumbl cookies to raise money for caregivers of individuals with dementia. (Photo courtesy of Students for a Dementia Friendly TCU)

This semester, the organization plans to fundraise for more awards while continuing to serve and advocate for those impacted by dementia.

To learn more about Students for a Dementia Friendly TCU, visit their Instagram or email [email protected]